The age of honesty

This is the start of an idea rather than the end of one.

In the 80s it was all about image. The mask. Showboats swam, shy-aways sank.

But the new era brings a see-through revolution. Transparency, you see. Now our every move is visible to our numerous networks, concealment is harder. The fact that your work mates and your mum see the same Facebook page makes it more difficult to lie about where you have been, and who with.

Which brings us to an emerging movement: honesty.

Like @humblebrag – the Twitter feed that collates show-off tweets comprised of, essentially, a brag disguised with a drop of endearing humility – more and more people are being (perhaps having to be), well, all open and approachable.

The trend is evident not only across social networks, but in sitcoms, movies, even music (Lily Allen’s self-aware ‘The Fear’ posed questions about image-culture without feeling encumbered to answer them: ‘I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore’).

A poet friend of mine talks about being able to fail on stage: ‘You need to learn that it’s ok to fail. Accept it. And use it.’ There is something enormously engaging about someone who’s prepared to laugh at themselves. It’s a social necessity, in fact. The junior presenter who can stand up in a meeting with everything to prove and quip a one-liner about a dodgy choice of clipart will win more friends, and respect, than the jittery try-hard who takes a provocative question to heart and gets defensive.

Brands are adopting this new, more humble mindset too. Since BP changed their end line from the grand ‘Beyond Petroleum’ to the more honest (and accurate) ‘It’s a start’ (and gained £millions in brand value as a result) organisations everywhere have been eagerly shedding their corporate masks and coming over all ‘real’. Like Tesco Mobile. Or   Wonga. 

But do you know what’s really irritating about all this? It’s as if people (and therefore brands) think that by being charmingly honest, it excuses them from poor behaviour. After all, Wonga still command an impressively bent 4214% APR on their loans. But as long as they’re honest about it, right?

Anyway, I did say this was the beginning of an idea. Not sure where it goes from here, to be honest.

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